On the one hand, you can understand the allure of trading for Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. He's long been one of the best power hitters in baseball. When healthy, he's a strong bet to produce at a high level. For his career, he owns an OPS+ of 141, and he'll almost certainly top 300 career homers in 2017. In related matters, he's averaged 34 home runs per 162 games played over his 10 seasons with the Brewers. In 2016, he batted .305/.365/.538 and cranked 30 homers in 135 games.
On the other hand, Braun is going into his age-33 season, and it's possible his decline phase is in the offing. As well, he's still owed at least $80 million over the remainder of his contract. Another reason for caution when it comes to dealing for Braun, who's long been rumored to be available in trade? It's his past use of performance-enhancing drugs. Here's what one major-league exec told Nick Carardo of the Boston Globe:
"When a guy with that contract has been busted once, it's hard to commit those dollars and those player resources because if he gets busted again, you lose all of your guys and you lose Braun. Nobody is saying he'd do it again, but while he's a very good impact player, it's just a tough one."
Indeed, Braun was suspended under the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for the final two months-plus of the 2013 regular season for PED use. Braun's been a model citizen since then and has produced at a customary level. However, in the event that Braun failed a second test, he'd be suspended for a full 162 games. As our unnamed exec notes, that would be a serious blow to the team that acquires Braun.
Obviously, such an outcome is unlikely, but the fact that a full-season suspension is within the range of possibilities is something teams will consider. The quote above also hits on another cost -- the talent given up in trade.
The Brewers are just now starting to come out of rebuilding mode, and Braun would pretty much be the last possible veteran chip of note. Milwaukee isn't likely to approach such a trade as a straight dump of that $80 million or so he's owed. They want more controllable young talent, and to get young, controllable young talent in exchange for a big contract, you must send a pile of cash along with that big contract. For the team acquiring Braun, that means you trade significant prospects back the other way instead of tossing in a couple of mid-level names and assuming the full balance of the contract.
That's a risky proposition for a GM acquiring Braun. If Braun did wind up failing a test a second time, then that would be a serious black eye for the front office. Other than residual suspicions, there's no reason to think Braun is still using, but, again, it's not an impossibility. Presumably, a willingness to cross that moral line a first time makes one more likely to cross it again.
There's little doubt that Braun could be a big help to a contender in the near-term, and indeed the Dodgers have been prominently linked to him in recent months. However, this wouldn't be your garden-variety veteran addition on the trade market. Sure, the risk of Braun getting pinged again would likely be priced into trade negotiations (teams buy and sell risk all the time in player transactions), but if the exec's comments are any guide, then it's perhaps too much of an impediment for some organizations.